Avenue of Vanishing

Paper Text – $16.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-5182-6

Cloth Text – $49.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-5181-9
Publication Date
April 2007
Page Count
80 pages
Trim Size
6 1/8 x 8 1/2

Avenue of Vanishing

William Olsen
In lyric and narrative verse, William Olsen explores subcultures ranging from the suburban middle class to the urban drug culture to the art world, and along the way, constantly probes at the very nature of human language. Drawing surprising and illuminating connections between the political and historical, the prosaic and the personal, civilization and nature, these poems try to make sense of the individual's experience of time, memory, and society. The range of Olsen's images form an organic connection between the physical and the abstract and his hypnotic mixture of colloquial and eloquent language create a sound and music that are uniquely his own.
That's what infinity did, contain and threaten,

until friends complied by going one by one

to resurface obligingly in memories, and it sometimes still feels

we left them at our leisure, that such choice was good

so long as a larger choice seemed to succeed it,

nor could gazing bereave us of common sense,

nor would all plenty and foison fall into penury,

nor would shame forever drop its heavy head.

Infinity felt like life, and it said so, and waited.

It even spelled our autumnal names in solid gold

leaves that an inexhaustible supply of wind

tossed for such pleasure as we had said and said

until it transformed into the profound conviction

that the right track was lost--imagine--forever,

it turned our tears into pebbles that can't seep away,

that can't fly away, that we don't dare to pronounce,

yet it seemed concocted out of a clear beautiful sky,

yet it peeped out the woodshed and drank from the  gutter spout,

yet it wrestled with itself and sank in eager mud

that presently it might be outwardly known

along with all the other creatures that perish,

heartbreaking idea among many heartbreaking ideas.


--from Infinity

About the Author
William Olsen teaches at Western Michigan University and the MFA Program at Vermont College. He has been honored with an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, a Nation/Discovery Award, The Texas Institute of Arts Award, and a Breadloaf Fellowship,. He is also the author of Vision of a Storm Cloud (Northwestern, 1996) and Trouble Lights (Northwestern, 2002) and co-editor with Sharon Bryan of Planet on the Table: Poets on the Reading Life (Sarabande, 2003). Olsen lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
[His] poems have a meditative breadth rare in much contemporary poetry.  Olsen weaves heady contemplations of the nature of time and our human inabilities to grasp it, the redemption of memory and the relationship between the singular gaze and the collective 'other. --Beckian Fritz Goldberg, author of The Book of Accident
Praise for William Olsen's Trouble Lights:
"Ravishingly visual and evocatively metaphysical, Olsen's poems illuminate unity in the universe, wildness in the heart." --Booklist
"The imagistic richness of Olsen's third collection stands in contrast to its themes: the transitory nature of existence, the circumscribed potential of human thought, and endeavor within a world eroded by inevitability ("this conquered/ vision we were given"). Olsen's poems are interrogative, probing concepts of past, present, and future with fusillades of self-perpetuating, sometimes self-negating, questions." --Library Journal